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February 14, 2013Tweet Follow @achiappazzi
For months, Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole has tried to get his team to match the baseline defensive stats that have become the normal targets in his tenure. For months, the Colonials won in spite of missing those statistical targets, prompting Toole to call his team a statistical anomaly.
Thursday night against Quinnipiac, Robert Morris was once again a statistical anomaly, as the Colonials reached several key defensive benchmarks but still fell to the Bobcats 63-61.
Robert Morris held Quinnipiac to 42.3 percent shooting from the floor and just 28 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. The Colonials forced 23 Quinnipiac turnovers, which they turned into 27 RMU points. Robert Morris even locked down in the second half, holding Quinnipiac to just 36 percent from the field.
But of the nine baskets Quinnipiac made in the second half, eight were lay-ups. The ninth was a short jumper by Evan Conti with 13 seconds left that gave Quinnipiac a 62-58 lead. Coron Williams hit a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left to make it interesting, but Conti hit a free throw and intentionally missed the second to seal the win.
"You can't be a good defensive team and basically give up nine lay-ups," Toole said on his post-game radio show. "You can't give up layups. It's a two point game with a 1:15 to go, Coron Williams can't give up a straight line drive for a lay-up and a foul. Velton (Jones) can't give up a straight line drive for a lay-up and a foul. We did that four different times."
A few other major contributions to the final decision lied elsewhere, as Robert Morris was out-rebounded by 20 and allowed Quinnipiac to go 17-for-24 from the free throw line while posting a meager 5-for-13 performance on their own trips to the charity stripe.
"It's disappointing when you discuss something that they do and they do it so well," Toole said. "I'm not saying it's easy thing to do and fight some of those guys for rebounds, but there were times when we had guys standing and watching."
Robert Morris led most of the first half before going into the break down 30-29, and though Quinnipiac had a strong offensive finish to the half, Robert Morris matched them via turnovers and by matching them on the glass.
"The sad thing is we rebounded well in the first half," Toole said. "And then all of a sudden, the second half they absolutely pummeled us on the offensive glass. For a team to shoot 36 percent and be able to beat us is a shame."
It changed the complexion of the game, as Quinnipiac held a lead with less than ten minutes to go. Robert Morris engineered a 10-0 run to take a 51-46 advantage with 7:24 to go and had a slim 58-56 lead with 3:58 to go. But Williams' last-second 3-pointer was the only bucket Robert Morris could make in the final four minutes. Velton Jones missed three lay-ups and Mike McFadden had a shot blocked in that span.
Jones was a game-time decision and very nearly didn't play. And though he played 28 minutes, his ailing shoulder noticeably hindered his game. He had no outside shot, and though he dished out six assists, he had just six points on 3-of-13 shooting.
"I thought he played pretty well. I think some of those finishes in the lane were some tough finishes," Toole said. "I think we made some questionable decisions in our shot selection down the stretch."
The loss also cost Robert Morris a chance to take over sole possession of first place in the Northeast Conference, as league-leader Bryant fell to Mount St. Mary's. Instead, the Bulldogs remain a half-game in first with a 9-3 record, while RMU and LIU-Brooklyn are tied for second at 9-4.
"Usually when you don't take of your business, you end up getting hurt on both sides of it," Toole said.
Russell Johnson led Robert Morris with 16 points and seven rebounds but played sparingly in the second half because of foul trouble. Lucky Jones chipped in 12 points and seven boards, while Williams also had 12 points. Leading scorer Karvel Anderson was held scoreless, just the second time all year he went without a point.
Officials: Bill McCarthy, Brian O'Connell, Ron Tyburski
ColonialsCorner publisher Andrew Chiappazzi can be reached at email@example.com.
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